Months, University

2017; a look back

I’m not going to write about 2017. There’s too much to say, so I’ll skip all the words and leave you with what I listened to for a year. Instead of writing about the year, or taking photos, the only thing I managed to do all year was to make monthly playlists of what I listened to each month.

There are repeats, they don’t make sense, the songs don’t go together, but in some way, they do. In little ways, these mix matched songs sum up a year. So enjoy them.

January

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February

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March

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April

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May

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June

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July

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August

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September 

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October

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November

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December

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University

A few changes…

Oh how the time has gone. Honestly, where did 2017 go? While my 2017 wrap up post is in the works, I decided it was worth addressing what happened with this blog. When I decided to move across the world for school, I figured the easiest way to keep family and friends back home in the loop was to write about things. The first term (and a bit more) of first year I wrote almost weekly, though reading it back now is almost painful.

Then I tried ‘monthly’ updates, and didn’t make it through a year of that. I tried to write about where I went, but never had the time and felt I had to do everything in chronological order and suddenly I couldn’t write anything because I hadn’t finished writing about Italy. So, halfway through my final year of university, I’m changing what I write.

While you’ll still find life updates, travel photos, and the normal things here, I’m going to try to give myself freedom to write about whatever I want to, whenever I want to. So maybe I’ll get around to writing about Italy more, or Geneva this summer, but maybe I won’t. Instead, I’ll be sharing more about what’s happening around me and the world, a more honest look at university life, and what I’m working on (personally and professionally).

Family and friends – feel free to read along, but I can’t say what you’ll find will be the targeted updates this started as. Here’s to the rest of my degree, job, travels, and the rest being more honest and maybe posted more frequently.

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University

Year 1

I finished a year of university, and it still doesn’t seem real. Not where I live, what I study, or the simple fact that it’s the last year I will be a ‘teenager’. I saw photos from my high school’s graduation this year, and my first thought at seeing friends in those familiar maroon and white gowns was they can’t be that old! if only because that means I am even older. Yes I know, I’m only 19, but somehow I became an adult this year and I’m not happy about it.

One of the first things people have been saying to me now that I’m back in Texas has been ‘you look older’. While that might be the short hair and look of exhaustion, it still makes me feel older. I do feel older. I have responsibilities, I live alone, I can’t always call my mom when there is a problem. All good things, but not always things I want. Mostly when it means I have to make phone calls because those are still terrifying.

I’ve been thinking about the highlights of my first year and thought I’d share a few

Copenhagen: my first trip, and a wonderful trip at that.

   
   

Vagina Monologues, the show but more than that, the friendships it gave me. 

   
   
Romania. The entire trip, the project, everything that it represents (except maybe the stress)

  
Seeing family in Portugal

  
Spending hours alone in art museums in Madrid 

   
24 amazing hours in Brussels 

 
the little moments on busy days where it hit me that this was life. That despite all the stress over where I was going to go to school, the move, how far I was from everyone I knew, how incredibly amazing things turned out.

   

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University

Counting down to exams

Don’t study because you need to

study because 

Knowledge is power

study because

they can never take it away from you

study because

you want to know more

study because

it enhances you

study because

it grows you

I’ve all but moved into the library leading up to my first exams this week, and I can’t say I’m loving it. I’m tired and frustrated and finding it hard to focus. I’ve never really had to study before, so these past weeks have been a challenge. I’m both very comfortable with the what I need to know, but also in a constant state of panic because I haven’t had an exam in over a year and what if I don’t know how to write and essay in 40 minutes anymore, or what if I can’t think of any examples or theories, or any of the 1 million other things that I need to know. In reality, I passed all those AP exams on my ability to write essays just like the ones on this exam and I have a better idea of these topics than I ever did an AP test. So I should probably calm down a bit.

Alex

 p.s. when I’m not drowning in books, I’ll finally post the Lisbon and Madrid photos, just a few months late!

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Travel, University

NUS Conference in Brighton

  I thought I left student government back in high school, but it seems not completely so. This past week I attended the National Union of Students (NUS) conference in Brighton. As someone who is not particularly involved in our students union (LUSU) it was a headfirst dive into UK student government.

I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I have attended enough conferences to feel prepared for the most part. And one of the first things I realized was that Girls State and Girls Nation have made any sort of event that discusses policy and uses parliamentary procedure so much easier. Amendments, parts, motions, its all easy to follow if you spend enough time practicing government. The second thing that I realized is that when they say “Union” they mean it in the workers union way that in the US we wouldn’t. Sometimes I forget that the ‘liberal’ side of the UK is farther left than anything in the US. It was interesting to watch how politics (not just student politics) impacted the discourse of the event and the actions that the NUS takes.

One of the, in my opinion odd, things that UK Student Unions do is instead of students holding the officer positions, the position is a full time job held by students taking a year off of their degree, or after they graduate. While some offices are held by ‘part-time officers’ the major ones, i.e. President, and the VP’s of various areas, are ‘Full Time Officers’ or FTOs. This of course applies to the NUS national officers, many of whom are years out of university. This led to one of the main arguments that rose up over the course of the conference and will be fought over in what is turning into a major division of universities and unions across the country. Students feel that the NUS is not representing them well, as its political, its leaders are detached from the reality of students, and students have little influence on the issues the NUS takes up over the year. With a number of Student Unions (SU’s) and student groups calling to split from the NUS, it will be interesting in the coming weeks and months to see if the division between local unions and the national body grows, or dies off as students get caught in the rush of exams and end of term. That itself may be a key argument behind staying in the NUS, and a major point behind FTOs.

What was probably the major point of division in the conference was the election of a new president, which seemingly tore the organization apart. Malia Bouattia, the president-elect and first Black Muslim president of the organization became a divisive figure in a storm of accusations of anti-Semitism, the usual racism and islamaphobia, and her more extreme approach than current president and main opponent, Megan Dunn. Going into the conference with no background knowledge of either candidate, the media and discussion around the candidates was overwhelming, and difficult to sort. And as much as SU’s threat to leave may tear the NUS apart, it seems just as likely that internal division between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ factions may be the bigger threat to the organization.

The highlight of the conference was the success of a motion for a full time Trans office and an autonomous Trans campaign to better support students across the country who have been under represented in not just major campaigns, but with the LGBTQ+ liberation campaign. The motion passed in a nearly unanimous vote, an amazing moment of unity in a conference that had felt divided and tense from the beginning.

Though I plan to stay fairly un-involved in Student Politics, the conference was definitely  an incredible learning experience. It highlighted a couple of major things for me. 1) Our student body is so disconnected from bigger issues and campaigns. Despite the response from so many other university’s students about being connected to the NUS, I think we got maybe one tweet about it? 2) We spend time bemoaning “LUSU” with no understanding of the structure, or what we mean. 3) UK politics will forever confuse me, and I have no desire to get involved. And 4) Brighton is really pretty.

Alex

 

 

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Enactus, University

Being Selfish

I would not say I’m a selfless person. I wouldn’t even often say I’m a particularly nice or caring person. I’m often mean, standoffish, and rude. I am however, incredibly bad at telling people no. My inability to refuse to do things for people is the reason behind my over-involvement in every society I have ever joined, and lots of extra stress. I can’t say I always agree to do things because I am such a kind hearted and caring person either, I just seem to be unable to say no, though I will complain about it.

I say yes to doing the entire group project, planning the event that is not my job, and fixing problems I didn’t cause. I say yes to rewriting an entire 17 minute script because someone asked even when I have essentially no time and don’t actually care to begin with. I say yes all to often because I feel I have to, that if I don’t it won’t happen, and I seem to be incapable of letting that happen. It doesn’t have to be my job to fix the problem, but I will make it.

I said no this time. I was asked to give up the position I wanted the position that would make me happy, in order to do something that while it is technically ‘better’ has no interest to me. Writing the words “I turned down being president of a society” sounds presumptuous and rude. I really almost didn’t write this because it doesn’t feel like the kind of thing you can say. But I was asked to be president of a society, which would mean leaving behind all the parts of the society I love in order to do what is basically admin work. And while that part of a society is good and important, its not what I love. I wouldn’t say its what I’m incredibly good at, though I know I am capable of it.

However, being me, and for all the reasons I explained, I was going to say yes. I was going to say yes because I was asked and I told myself that me being unhappy with my position was one of those ‘greater good’ sacrifices. That maybe I had to be unhappy about what I was doing, but it would mean all the good things would get to happen. Luckily, I have some incredible people in my life who spent weeks telling me otherwise. That I didn’t have to do all the things I hate just because someone asked. That I am allowed to choose what I want to do, and that its not my responsibility to fix the rest of the problem. Who calmed me down, and didn’t make me do it alone.

So I said no, that I wouldn’t do it. I caused trouble, upset a lot of plans, and made some people not too happy with me. I don’t regret any of that, I don’t particularly care about people being happy with me. I only that it hurt people I care about, because at the end of the day I did make a selfish decision, and it did affect others. So I’ll be sorry about that for the rest of time. But I am so incredibly happy I said no.

And lets be honest, I would have been a disaster of a president. Corporate offices make me want to vomit, I have no patience for the self-congratulatory rhetoric so often used, and I wear ripped jeans to far too many important meetings. So that is what I will continue to do, resume building and prestige aside.

Alex

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University

International Women’s Day

While all days should celebrate women, March, as women’s history month, and specifically March 8th, as International Women’s Day, are important. This year, I got to help organize a number of events on our campus to celebrate the day.

The first, and possibly my favourite event, was a panel on women in religion. While I’m a bit biased, as this is what I study, and I was lucky enough to chair it, the panel was incredibly diverse and had some amazing answers to a number of tough questions, from how religion can be a place for equality, to how our gendered rhetoric of “God” can affect our faith. 12792218_10153363527486767_7680097968735359878_o10446042_10153363531286767_3140959838720597427_o

 

I was able to attend the Women in Science panel, which was incredibly interesting despite not being in a science field. It was wonderful to hear from academics in the departments the way university structures, from ability to work part time and accessible child care affect how women progress within academia.

We were also able to host a Women in Student Media panel, which was so exciting because while the other events had been interesting, they were all academics and professionals, where this panel was able to discuss events on campus and how students lives are impacted by gender in campus societies. And as someone in Student Media, it was really great to hear from some of the passionate and powerful women in the years above me who have made the way in student media for women, as well as how we can continue to address gender disparities in the representations we create.

Sadly, I was unable to attend the open mic night that was filled with what I know were amazing performances by women from across our campus.

International Women’s day is special, and happy. But also a great reminder of what we have to work towards. But for a bit, I just want to celebrate being a woman, and all the incredible ladies in my life.

Alex

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University, Weekly Updates

Oh look its Friday

Writing this post has been on my to-do list since Sunday, but yet here we are on Friday, talking about last week. Whoops.

With non stop meetings, a training in Manchester, the tech and dress rehearsals, and the show Saturday and Sunday night, last week was a whirl wind. I’ve rearranged some of my meetings, so I have two extra meetings, but it also shortens my Tuesday meetings by an hour or two. Its a tradeoff for sure, but sometimes having an hour off makes the day a lot better.

Last Thursday we actually booked the trip to Romania. Next Wednesday (the 24th) two of my project members (for Enactus) and I will be headed to Romania to meet with local NGO’s, our project partner, and a number of survivors of human trafficking in variety of stages of recovery. I am both incredibly excited and panicking, just a little. When I started university, I had no idea I would be running an international non-profit a few months later. I love it, but the responsibility is also a little terrifying.

My involvement with SCAN (our student newspaper) seems to grow a little week, but the excitement of seeing something you wrote on paper never goes away. I wrote an article about the university’s  ‘I Won’t Stand for It’ campaign last week, and seeing it front page was a thrill. That article is not up yet, but some of my other articles can be found at http://scan.lusu.co.uk/index.php/author/alexandra-brock/

I’ll try to be a little more timely in my update this week (as in a few days) but I make no promises.

Alex

 

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University, Weekly Updates

Sunrise

I have a complicated relationship with the sunrise. I’m not sure if I love it or hate it.

I love the time as the sun rises before the sun actually rises into view, when the sky is purple and pink, sneaking up the horizon, chasing the night away. Its quiet, there aren’t enough birds to make much noise this time of year. With a cup of coffee, standing on the porch outside my house, its a moment of peace before the day starts. These are all the reasons I love the sunrise.

I hate the sunrise because I think the earliest time of day that should be seen twice is 8, and the sun rises long before that, even this far north. I hate the sunrise because if I’m seeing it, my sleep is all kinds of a mess, and the day ahead is going to be far too long. But I guess if its one of those days, at least it starts with something so beautiful.

Last week was a few too many ‘sunrise’ days, and there are more to come. I’m feeling quite a bit better than last weekend, and if nothing else, days that start that early are at least incredibly productive.

It seems like everything is moving very quickly right now, TR:ust has grown so quickly in the past months, and I’m beginning the countdown for the first trip to Romania. International Women’s Day is approaching in early March, and as per usual I’ve managed to get involved in that. For every item I complete, it seems I add two more to my to-do list. But my classes are interesting, and reading for class is somehow a break from the chaos all around. I know we don’t go to university for all the societies, but part of me believes we do. I could take these classes online, read these books anywhere. But the things that happen on a campus, the energy, the push to change things, that’s why university is important. So my focus may drift from my course occasionally, but in the end, its definitely all balanced.

I’m trying not to drink too much coffee, and the salad I packed for lunch (yes, I packed my lunch because I am an adult and planned ahead) is calling my name to balance out the amount of caffeine I’ve had. Here’s to another week of seeing all the sunsets and sunrises.

Alex

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University

What to do when you’re sick at Uni

That moment when you wake up, and it feels like you’ve been hit by a bus. The first conscious swallow hurts, the sniffles begin, and you dread opening your eyes. Yes, its that time. The time of year (winter) when everyone gets sick. Yesterday I had the “it feels like I’m getting sick” feeling, but I woke up this morning sick. There is a very big, and very not fun difference.

Luckily, its a Saturday, so I was able to spend a good part of my day under the covers. I probably looked mostly dead in the meetings I had, but I am quite unbothered by that. The current day-in-bed uniform is my favourite flannel, (mostly because I could wear it to meetings) a pair of St. Andrews pajama pants that have great pockets for cough drops and tissues, which are tucked into my Red Sox fuzzy socks (thanks Mollie). I know, its easily the most attractive look of the year. I’m sure it will be all over the runways soon.

I’d say I’m eating soup because I’m sick, but to be honest, I always eat soup. Like at least one meal a day is soup. I had some spicy tomato soup earlier, though if I’m feeling a bit better tomorrow, I’ll be making this soup, which is like chicken noodle soup for the non-meat eater. I have some raspberries in the fridge that will also be eaten. Probably right after I finish writing this.

I have a collection of cold meds (because honestly, I always (and basically only) get colds) as well as a bag of cough drops and Emergen-C. What more can a sick uni student really need? Probably a bit more sleep and a not as many meetings, but there are just so many exciting projects going on in life at the moment, I can handle the little cold.

Alex

(counting on the fact that I get it together over the next day or so, there will be a bit of more normal, weekly update post soon)

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